Life is a long experiment that includes successes and failures

No such thing as a failed experiment

At the beginning of this year, 47% of Americans made a New Year’s resolution. Only 8% of us will keep it. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing as long as we:

  1. Take the time to reflect on why we didn’t keep it.
  2. Look at it as one “experiment” in a long process.

Last weekend, I saw two movies, Birdman and Particle Fever, that portrayed very different attitudes towards success and failure. Without giving too much away about each movie, in Birdman, the former star of a comic book hero movie franchise tries desperately to regain his former success by writing, directing and starring in his adaptation of a Raymond Carver play.

He tells his daughter, “I’m trying to do something important,” to which she responds, “You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter.” Throughout the film, it feels like he is running from his failures in the past, and possible failures in the future.

Particle Fever is a documentary about the  launch of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs Boson (aka the “god particle”), which some of the scientists interviewed have been working on for 20+ years!  I was struck by how different the attitude, as expressed by one of the physicists in the film, Savas Dimopoulos, was to failure:

“Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success.”

Failure seemed to be an accepted part of the process, and a looooooooong process at that. As another physicist, Monica Dunford, says in a voice-over during footage of her going for a run:

“When you’re dealing with something that’s a long term project . . . you can’t think about the end. Ever. If you start off a marathon thinking ‘I can’t wait to get to the finish line. I’m going to have my data,’ or ‘I’m going to have my crispy french fries at the finish line’ or whatever motives you. If you start thinking that at mile one and it’s like ten minutes into the race and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m only at mile one, I’ve got 22.5 miles to go.’ If you’re thinking like that at the start, then you’re done. Mentally you are done. This is what doing discovery physics means. This is what discovery means.”

I’ve thought about both films a lot recently and wondered: As I make future plans in reaction to past failures, am I being more like the actor in Birdman, or like the scientists in Particle Fever?

I have to admit that I have been being more like the actor in Birdman, running from failures and taking desperate actions in the hopes that future success would bury the memory of my failures, rather than embracing life as a long experiment that includes successes and failures.

So, I’m hoping to spend some time at the end of this month reflecting on some of my most recent failures with a “scientific method” type of lense:

  • Question: What question about my life was I trying to answer?
  • Hypothesis: What did I think the solution would be?
  • Experiment: What actions did I take to try to make happen what I wanted to happen?
  • Data: What are the facts about what happened?
  • Observations: What other things did I notice and feel about what happened?
  • Conclusion: Did I achieve my hoped for solution? Why or why not? If I didn’t, what did I learn and what will I do differently next time?

As we wind down the first month of 2015:

  • What hasn’t turned out the way you expected?
  • What will be your next experiment?

Creativity is not just for artists

Creativity is not just for artists 2

“Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.” ~Twyla Tharp, author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Twenty plus years ago, I went through a graduate program to earn an M.A. in Creation Spirituality. The premise of much of the curriculum was that if you believe in some kind of greater creative force, then you will be your truest self and closest to that source when you are being creative.

Mossy Heart in the Sidewalk

One of the daily practices we were encouraged to foster during the program was art-as-meditation, to do something creative each day (e.g. make music, sing, dance, write, paint, draw, take photos, mold clay) without focusing on the product, only the process. I was pretty regular with my art-as-meditation practice while I was in school and for a little while afterwards, and then it fell away.

Lately, I’ve found myself focusing Focusing FOCUSING on getting from A to Z in certain areas of my life and feeling extremely frustrated when either 1. things go from A to J to F, or 2. it seems like nothing is happening. As I’ve continued with pushing my metaphorical boulder up a hill, the idea of an art-as-meditation practice keeps popping up.

I even recommended it to someone else. Classic. It’s so much easier to give other people the advice you need to take yourself! Clearly, I need to spend a little time each day being comfortable with the uncertainty, lack of linear thinking and chaos that being creative can bring.

If you’re interested in trying an art-as-meditation practice, it’s fairly simple to do:

  • Set aside time each day (5-20 minutes).
  • During that time, create in whatever way moves you without focusing on the product, just the process.
  • Don’t judge what you create.
  • Social media didn’t exist 20 years ago, so I would add, refrain from sharing what you create on social media so that you don’t set yourself up to be judged by someone else either.

The process is easy. The challenge is committing to make space each day for the unknown.

Question mark in the water

“All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. “~ M.C. Richards, author of Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person

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Test of LARGER britt hummingbird juicy blogging for nonprofits logo 6:11P.S. I’ll be offering The Juicy Blogging E-Course January 20-February 17, 2015!

 

Photos by me.

Juicy Blogging E-Course: The Art and Play of Blogging

Juicy Blogging with Britt BravoThe Juicy Blogging E-Course is back!

Do you want to re-energize your blog and blogging practice, or rediscover the ♥ of your blog?

I’ll be offering this ever popular e-course January 20-February 17, 2015. During the course, you’ll play with fun assignments on a private blog with your fellow juicy bloggers.

“The best part of it all is that it is just so much fun!” ~ Juicy Blogging E-Course student

The course consists of three kinds of fun-work:

Reflection questions to refine your blog’s purpose
Connection assignments to build community and traffic
Creative and juicy blog post prompts to get you writing

While working at your own pace, this course will help you:

• Discover what you love to write about
• Create a big ‘ole list of juicy blog post topics
• Learn tricks and tips for building community and traffic
• Design a blogging schedule that works for you
• Connect with other juicy bloggers

”Hands down the best #12ntc session so far is from @Bbravo. So much practical, tactical goodness on blog strategy! Bravo Britt!” ~ @TarynIdana, Marketing Manager, Common Sense Media

How it works

  • Each week, you’ll receive an email with a link to the week’s lessons on a private blog.
  • You can work privately on your own, or interact with your fellow students in the comments of each lesson’s posts by asking questions, sharing reflections, and posting links to your blog posts for feedback.
  • I individually answer all of the questions you post in the comments of each week’s lessons.
  • Your Juicy Blogging lessons and homework assignments will be posted on Tuesdays (January 20 & 27, February 3, 10 & 17).

Juicy Bonus
At the end of the course, you’ll receive a coupon for 25% off a one-hour blog coaching session tailored just for you.

Investment
$99

Add to Cart

About Britt

“Britt is a real pro. She’s experienced, knowledgeable, and talented – as a blogger and a teacher – always willing to help you figure and find things out. And she’s great fun! I highly recommend working with her!”
~Liza Pike, Founder, New Media Mentors

“I think Britt’s vision for bringing social media tools to the world of non-profits and social change agents is some of the most important work out there.”
~ Lynn Johnson, Co-Owner and CEO, Glitter & Razz Productions

Britt Bravo Big Vision ConsultantI’ve been helping creative entrepreneurs, social innovators, artists, writers and healers realize their big vision in a fun, intuitive and practical way for 17 years! Before starting Big Vision Consulting, I worked for nonprofits and socially responsible businesses like Mother Jones Magazine, Odwalla and Streetside Stories.

I began blogging in 2005 with the launch of my blog, Have Fun * Do Good.  Since then, I’ve written for the Huffington Post, WEtv’s WE Volunteer blog, BlogHer, NetSquared, the Stanford Social Innovation Review Opinion Blog, WorldChanging, Sparked, and the Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship blog. In 2012, I created my second blog, VegCookbook Club, which I passed on to the VegCookbook Club community to continue running in late 2014.

FAQs

Do I need a blog to take this course?

Yes and no. You will get more out of the class if you have a blog, but if you’re taking the class to figure out if you want to blog, I recommend setting up a free Blogger or WordPress.com blog to play with. You can make your Blogger blog private and your WordPress.com blog private, if you want to experiment without anyone seeing it.

Will I learn how to set up/design a blog?

Nope, but if you’re just starting out, by the end of the course, you’ll have a much better sense of the type of blog you want to create when you do set up, or redesign your blog.

I have some things going on during part of the time the course is happening. How long will I have access to the material?

I’ll keep the class blog up for a month or so after the course is over: Till the first day of spring (March 20)!

Please feel free to email me with questions about the course!

Be Open to Big Vision Photobombs

While visiting New Mexico this summer, I raised my phone to take a photo of some pink flowers against a blue sky when this happened:

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photo

This hummingbird flew right into my frame and posed for a long time (at least by hummingbird standards). It was a magical moment, especially because hummingbirds have always been an “auspicious symbol” for me.

Sometimes when we’re working on our big vision: noticing what sparkles, letting go of old visions to be open to the new, and running towards what excites us, something unexpected shows up right in front of our face. It might even be more wonderful than the vision we imagined. Why not focus on it, before it flies away?

Don’t Be Shy. Run Towards Your Big Vision.

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As I was walking to work one day this week, I saw this cute Corgi on the street. At first he was shy. He watched me with half of his face hidden behind the wall. But as I walked closer, his excitement overwhelmed him. He ran out of hiding to say hello and invited me to pet him (so soft!).

Sometimes that’s how we are with our Big Visions. Shy at first. Testing the waters. Not wanting to make a commitment. But here’s the important part. The excitement. When we get SO excited about something that we just HAVE to do it, or learn more about it, or share it with others, we need to let go and run towards it.

When you feel pulled towards something that makes you go “Oooooooh!” Move towards it. Get closer. See what it’s all about. For example, I often take photos on my walks to and from work.

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A color will catch my eye and compel me to take out my phone and look closer.

 

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Sometimes I decide that it doesn’t look as great as I thought it would, and I keep walking.

 

Fall leaves

Other times, halfway through editing it on Instagram, I’ll decide that the image or moment isn’t drawing me in anymore. I discard the edits and delete the photo.

Sunset

But a lot of the time, if I stop to photograph something I feel inexplicably drawn to, the photo turns out even more beautifully than I could have imagined. And that makes me happy. Very happy.

Big Vision experiment: Move towards what excites you, attracts you, or draws you in this week.

All photos by me.

When Your Big Vision Dies . . .

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“The Death of a tree is the birth of a log or a snag [a standing dead or dying tree]. Dead trees are essential to the health of the forest and they are the basis of its astonishing productivity. Fallen trees are a substantial reservoir of organic matter and water that other plants and trees depend on. . . As a tree slowly decays, it becomes a nursery for plants. It may take 400 years or longer to become incorporated into the forest floor. During this time, a variety of shrubs and trees have the opportunity to develop part or all of their root systems within the decaying wood.” - California State Parks guide for the Founders’ Grove in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation along The North Coast or “Redwood Coast” of California. The hubs and I spent a lot of time hiking, and we did some camping among the giant redwood trees. It was wonderful.

Burned tree

I was particularly struck by how intertwined death and life are in the forest (Did you know that the greatest accumulation of biomass [living and dead organic material] ever recorded on earth is in Humboldt Redwoods State Park?).

I knew in theory that when things died they provided nutrients for living things. “Cycle of life,” “when one door closes, another opens,” and all that, but there was something about seeing so many fallen and standing dead trees, and the life that grew out of them that amazed me.

tree with hole

There were also a lot of fire-scarred trees, and trees with crazy holes through them. The forest wasn’t just filled with natural beauty, it was also filled with destruction, natural and man-made (96 percent of the original old-growth coast redwoods have been logged).

Me in the Redwoods

Sometimes when we are pursuing our Big Vision, things die (goals, habits, identities, ways of being, jobs, where we live, relationships). The destruction can happen by our hand, or by others’, deliberately, or against our will. Reality is, death, destruction and challenges will happen. On the up side, the growth of new things and “nutrients” for existing things can come out of those deaths.

One of the things that helps redwoods survive strong winds and floods is to intertwine roots with other redwoods, so when a storm rolls into your Big Vision, or your life in general, find someone to intertwine your roots with and hold on!

All photos by me and the hubs.

Looking for Your Big Vision? Notice What “Sparkles”

sparklesA friend who is between jobs recently asked me, “Is there one piece of advice you would give to a creative person when they are looking for their next job, or project?”

I responded, “Notice what ‘sparkles’ for you.”

I think of “sparkles” as things that make you smile, makes time fly, or that you all of a sudden become very curious about (even if you don’t understand why).

If you are a “creative” type, you already know that most creative projects don’t usually happen in a straight line: A to Z. They often begin with something small: a craving for an ingredient, a phrase you can’t stop thinking about, an attraction to a color, or a problem that piques your interest. My experience has been that if you follow that sparkle, and the next one and the next one, they will take you on a curvy route to your next big vision.

If you’re in the middle of a transition and trying to figure out what to do next, follow you sparkles, even if they don’t make logical sense. They will light the way.

Try this:

Over the next three days, notice what “sparkles” for you:

  • What brings you joy?
  • What are you attracted to?
  • What are you curious about?

Capture your “sparkles” in your journal, in a conversation with a friend, or with photos.

  • Are there any themes that run through all of your sparkles?
  • How can you bring more of what sparkles into your life?

Big Vision Tip: Stay on Track. Text Your Big Vision Buddy

Heather-Alaine-Big-Vision-BuddyAbout a year and a half ago my friend Heather and I decided to try the Oprah and Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience. To make sure we completed it, we texted each other right after we meditated. There were many mornings when I would “forget” to meditate (isn’t it funny how our minds do that when we’re resisting something?), and her text would prompt me to do it.

It worked so well that even when the 21 days were over, we continued to text each other after we meditated. A year and half later, our meditation practices certainly aren’t perfect, but they’re so much a part of our lives that we no longer text about it. We’ve moved on to new projects!

Heather is working on finishing her book, and I’m trying to get back into the swing of regular blogging, so now we text each when we’re going to write, and when we finish. Once again, it’s working! I’m posting here for the first time in almost two months.

It’s such a simple process, but one that has made a huge difference in our lives.

Below are a few tips for texting with your Big Vision Buddy:

  • Pick a Big Vision Buddy who is also working on a project, or habit. It’s more fun for the support to be two-way, rather than one-way.
  • Also, your Buddy should be someone who you aren’t competitive with, or who isn’t emotionally invested in the completion of your goal, or project.
  • Nudge don’t judge. If your Buddy hasn’t texted you in a while, gently ask them how things are going, and how you can support their getting back on track.

Big Vision to-dos for you:

  • Pick a project, or habit you would like to work on this week, this month, or this fall.
  • Ask someone to be your Big Vision Buddy.
  • Start texting!

Speaking of which, I’m going to go text Heather now!

Photo of Heather by In Her Image Photography